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CEN Study Tips by PDB Nurse Education, LLC

Updated: Aug 26, 2023


1. Thank you for allowing me to be your certification mentor! This is a commitment, but we can and WILL DO IT. Email me at pbartleysc@gmail.com if you have and questions about my study material.

2. If you are using other CEN study material, please email me to make sure it is reputable material. I have not found an app where I can confirm that an emergency nurse is developing the content.

3. Register for the CEN exam soon, it makes it “REAL” and you will actively study. Do not tell anyone when your test date is, that just adds more pressure. You have 90 days to take the exam once you register, but please do not schedule the exam on day 90, because something may go wrong. Check www.BCEN.org for exam information. With a medical statement of a learning disability, you can request a private testing space and additional time for testing. I do not suggest live remote proctoring.

4. Schedule your exam at the best time of day for you, morning, or afternoon. Night-shifters do not work all night, then taking the exam at 8:00am. The testing center is warm, and several have fallen asleep during the exam. When are you most alert – am or pm? Schedule your test for that time of day. If you are testing by live remote proctoring, really read the computer requirements and infringements.

5. The CEN exam is 175 questions, and you have 180 minutes to complete. All questions are multiple-choice, no “all of the above” or “select all that apply”.

6. Yes, the 2022 pass rate was 52%, but if you follow my advice, you have a much higher chance of passing the exam. No, my pass rate is not 100%. Not everyone commits to following my advice.

7. Twenty-five questions on the exam do not count. The 25 questions can be anywhere on exam, but tend to be earlier, so if you see something not in my material, just make the best educated choice.

8. My CEN pretest is 60 questions so you can assess your timing. The goal is to make 75%, so did you get 45 correct? Why did you miss the questions? Was it a knowledge-deficit, or test-taking error? The pretest questions are a little easier than the actual exam, just to assess basic knowledge.

9. The CEN exam blueprint has 10 sections, study one section per week.

10. Prepare a dedicated study space, just like students in virtual school. Have flashcards to write content you need to study more, and colorful pens to stimulate creative side. You are probably not retaining information you read at work.

11. Study during your peak brain time and consider playing instrumental music while you study to stimulate brain. Study in 30-45-minute intervals, then get up and exercise before continuing.

12. What study strategy works best for you?

a. Talk to a nurse who recently passed the CEN exam and ask for suggestions. This exam has evolved over the last 5 years, focusing more on prioritization and critical thinking, not memorization. Review ESI and TNCC to help with prioritization questions.

b. I strongly suggest you have a study buddy for accountability.

c. Develop flash cards of concepts you do not fully understand, not everything. Take the flashcards to work and ask everyone to tell you everything they know about that concept. You learn while creating the flashcards.

d. Develop memory aids, mnemonics, and acronyms for ECG concurrent leads, ABG interpretation, antidotes, etc.

e. Practicing sample questions with BCEN’s 150 questions, order at www.BCEN.org for $40.

f. Record yourself explaining “Key Points” in your own words and listen while driving or exercising, or before going to bed. You learn while recording and reinforce with listening.

g. Explain difficult material to a co-worker and encourage questions.


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